The awesome Esprit Turbo was launched in tremendous style at London's Royal Albert Hall. The party also celebrated Team Lotus' new sponsor, Essex Petroleum; the first 100 Esprit Turbos were to be built in Team Essex Lotus racing livery. Looking even more outrageous than the normally aspirated version, the (Type 82) Esprit Turbo boasted a new galvanised chassis, new suspension, and a 210bhp 16-valve turbocharged 2.2-litre engine. Its performance took it straight into the supercar league - 150mph+ and 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds. Following the Esprit Turbo’s introduction, the other models were updated with the latest 2.2-litre Lotus engine and a galvanised chassis, with the Elite and Eclat also benefiting from new interiors, instrumentation and switchgear. The Lotus line-up is now: Elite S2, Eclat S2, Esprit S2.2 (an interim model developed from the S2), and the Turbo.
On the racing front, the skirts on 'ground effect' F1 cars pioneered by Team Lotus (introduced on the Type 78) were banned by the sport's governing body; Chapman and the Team Lotus engineers once more had to apply some lateral thinking. Setting up a race car's suspension for the best aerodynamic effect meant that the driver wasn't sufficiently protected from road shocks, but a softer suspension compromised the aerodynamics.
To resolve this, the Lotus Type 86 began development, with two separate chassis and two separate suspension systems. The car was a prototype and technology demonstrator and was tested extensively during the 1980 season.
During this season Lotus competed in the Type 81 Formula One race car.
By incorporating the chassis and suspension of the Turbo into the non-turbo Esprit S3, Lotus was able to save costs on both models and passed this saving on to the customer.
In July the Esprit Turbo shot to stardom, featuring strongly in the new Bond movie 'For Your Eyes Only,’ which received another Royal Premier.
The Lotus Type 88 Twin Chassis Formula One car was developed for the season, the FIRST car designed with a carbon fibre monocoque, and two chassis – one in which the driver sat which was softly sprung, and the other (where the skirts etc.,) sat was stiffly sprung. This was far less punishing on the driver, but was eventually outlawed from competition by the governing body.
The Type 87 replaced it, and Nigel Mansell, who had recently joined Team Lotus, raced it alongside Elio de Angelis.
The 2+2 (Type 89) Excel was launched in October, replacing the Eclat. It was neatly styled, powered by a 160bhp 2.2-litre Lotus twin-cam engine, and handled superbly.
With Elio de Angelis at the wheel, the Lotus Type 91 won its first Grand Prix Formula One race at the Austrian Grand Prix; this was to be the last win for Lotus in the Cosworth DFV engine.
On Thursday December 16, Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman, founder and chairman, died suddenly from a heart attack at only 54 years of age.
Chapman was greatly missed, but the spirit he imparted to his team and his colleagues lived on.
In May the Lotus Active Suspension System was announced. It used a pioneering system of computers to control the hydraulic suspension, to maintain the car's balance throughout cornering, accelerating, braking, or traversing a bumpy surface. An early experimental version of the Active Suspension system was tested on the Type 92 Formula One car, driven by Mansell.
At the request of Lotus, Toyota acquired a 16.5% stake in Lotus. The two companies had been in a mutual collaboration relationship with respect to technology since 1980. Over the following few years, Toyota would increase its shareholding in Lotus to 21.5%.
An updated Excel and Esprit Turbo made their debut at the London Motorfair later in the year.
In a bold step to demonstrate its commitment to becoming a major automotive engineering consultancy, Lotus invested £500,000 and opened two of the most sophisticated computer-controlled engine test cells in Europe.
The Hethel factory reached another milestone - 30,000 cars had been produced at the Norfolk factory since 1966.
The V8-powered Etna concept car, designed by Giugiaro, was shown at the British International Motor Show in Birmingham. The engine was Lotus' own design, a 4.0-litre V8 developing 320bhp. Projected performance for the Etna was 0-60mph in 4.3secs, with a top speed of 180mph.
As proof that Team Lotus had become a breeding ground for young talent, Ayrton Senna replaced the departing Nigel Mansell. In this first season, driving the Type 97T, the FIRST car to have aerodynamic barge boards. Senna won in Portugal (despite fearsomely wet conditions), and again at Spa.
Chrysler Corporation USA contracted with Lotus Engineering to develop a family of high performance 16-valve engines for its future range of passenger cars. There was a massive leap in work-in-hand, from £3 million in June 1984 to £31 million in June 1985, thanks mainly to growth of contract work for clients worldwide.
Floor space at the Hethel site was increased by 45 per cent to cope with the extra work and staff numbers rose to more than 600.
To round off the year nicely the Excel SE is announced at the London Motor Show. Among a package of all-round refinements is a new 180bhp high compression version of the Lotus 2.2-litre 16-valve engine.
Lotus marked 20 years at the Hethel site. General Motors acquired 100% shareholding of Group Lotus plc.
At the Motor show Lotus launches a new high compression version of the Esprit Turbo and an automatic version of the Excel.
Camel became Team Lotus' new major sponsor, and Honda the new engine supplier. Ayrton Senna remained the team's number one driver, and notched up wins at Monaco and Detroit in the Type 99T.
This was the FIRST Lotus to adopt the computer controlled ‘active’ suspension, which had been under development at Lotus for some years; Senna proved its worth not just through his victories, but through 25,000 miles of rigorous testing and racing.
At the London Motorfair the new Esprit Turbo made its debut; restyled by designer Peter Stevens, both inside and out. Stevens managed to give the car a more aggressive appearance, but retain its iconic stance. A normally aspirated model joined the line-up.
In celebration of the company's 40th anniversary, a limited edition Esprit Turbo was produced; available only in fashionable pearlescent white with blue leather and suede interior.
Formula One World Champion, Nelson Piquet joined Lotus, following Ayrton Senna’s departure. The 1988 Lotus Type 100T proudly wore the Number One of the reigning world champion.
This year saw the launch of the most powerful Lotus supercar to date: the 264bhp, 164 mph Esprit Turbo SE, with a 0-60 mph speed from standstill of 4.7 seconds.
In the October Lotus launched the Elan (Type 100) roadster at the London Motorfair. Designed in-house (with Peter Stevens in charge), the Elan broke with Lotus tradition by being front-wheel drive. This was the FIRST car to use the patented 'Interactive wishbone' front suspension set-up. It handled superbly and had exceptional levels of road holding.
The Lotus Type 101 introduced the normally aspirated 3.5 litre Judd V8 engine, the car being driven by Nelson Piquet and Satoru Makajima during the '89 season.